The GP recovers the nylon contained in waste (such as carpets, fabrics scraps fishing nets) by transforming back into raw material without any loss of quality.
The innovative ECONYL® Regeneration System is based on sustainable chemistry: with this industrial process, the nylon contained in waste, such as carpets, fabrics scraps fishing nets and others, is transformed back into raw material without any loss of quality. At the moment there are two main waste streams that are relevant for the production of ECONYL® fibre: pre-consumption waste (among which are industrial oligomers, industrial plastic waste, yarn discards and fabric scraps) and post-consumption waste as upper part of carpets (i.e. fluff) and fishing nets. In addition to reducing the pressure on the removal of natural resources, the removal of fishing nets from the environment has a positive effect on the biodiversity. With the aim of improving the ECONYL® production chain, in 2015 Aquafil launched the first phase of the “ECONYL® Qualified” project in collaboration with its suppliers. The aim of the project is to develop a qualification protocol to award the excellence of companies that supply Aquafil with goods or services for the manufacturing of ECONYL® yarn. The qualification process is based on specific guidelines, aimed at encouraging excellence and bringing innovation into the supply chain. Besides direct beneficiaries, local and foreign communities that benefit from the removal of old waste from natural environment can be considered the indirect beneficiaries of the GP.
The ECONYL® system/product was launched in 2011, one year after Aquafil SLO started the investment worth 15,7 million € in total of which 3,62 million EUR was received by the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology. Altogether the company spent over 28 million € on the project.
Evidence of success
In 2017 the production of ECONYL caprolactam has saved more than 150.000 tons of CO2 emissions and almost 2.8 million GJ of energy. The creation of ECONYL products is waste positive, meaning that the amount of waste removed from the Earth is greater than the amount of waste resulting from production. In 2013 Aquafil started an initiative the Healthy Seas, a Journey from Waste to Wear, together with the Land & Sea group of the ECNC-European Centre for Nature Conservation and Star Stock.
Potential for learning or transfer
ECONYL® and ECONYL® Regeneration System as business model and example can be implemented also in other industry sectors and territories. Recycling as a process to provide input raw material is necessary in particular for the chemical and plastics industry. This business model is replicable, but the complexity of the technical requirements depends from company to company and from product to product. This GP has a wide global potential for implementation in different industries. It is an example of how to turn basic business process and exploit the potential of already discarded materials. We have to change our basic consumer and productive thinking and put more effort in new ways and approaches of environment protection. Plastic and other raw materials made from oil have great potential for reuse, so this GP showed that innovative vision, systematic development and investments can turn waste material in new quality products.
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